THE BIG PREVIEW
MSU VS. AUBURN
It's time for week three of The Big Preview -- as we take a look at an opponent that so many of us have grown to dislike recently (no particular reason): the Auburn Tigers. The Tigers, who are under the direction of first year head coach Gus Malzahn, have experienced a successful 2013 season in what they hope will be the start of the rejuvenation of their program after Gene Chizik left it burning by the wayside. The Tigers come into this Saturday's matchup with a 2-0 record, and one that is deceptively impressive. It was a pedestrian 2-0 until last Saturday when the team they defeated in the opening week, Washington State, defeated Lane Kiffin and the USC Trojans 10-7. Whether the Trojans are just that bad (they are) or Wazzou is better than advertised remains to be seen, but for the time being it makes Auburn's victory over the Cougs a bit more impressive. Are the Tigers for real? More importantly for State fans, was MSU's offensive success last weekend for real, or just a result of the competition? Lot's of questions for both teams will be answered this weekend, as Mississippi State and Auburn kick off their respective SEC seasons with a night game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
In this week's The Big Preview, we take a good, thorough, and complete
ly serious look at the Auburn Tigers by way of our Totally Serious Opponent Report, our traditional Game Preview, a Q&A with our Auburn SBNation brethren at College and Magnolia, and a little infographical stats breakdown. For those of you who are planning to make it to Saturday's game on the plains, we have a special edition of Road Dawgs included for you as well, with suggestions on where to eat, drink, and hopefully enjoy some post-win eats and suds.
Click any of the five links below to scroll directly to the section that you're looking for (each section also features a button at the end to take you back to the top of the page):
Totally Serious Opponent Report by James Carskadon
Game Preview -- Mississippi State vs. Auburn by JLgrindin
Road Dawgs -- Auburn by Metal Building Dawg
Q&A with SBNation Auburn Blog College and Magnolia with Chris Fuhrmeister
Let's Get Statistical by cristilmethod
Totally Serious Opponent Report - Auburn
by James Carskadon Follow @jamescarskadon
Auburn, much like Mississippi State, is a perfectly nice land-grant institution. So nice, in fact, that Cam Newton took his Heisman-winning talent to The Plains for nothing more than a scholarship and the chance to make a better man of himself through academics and athletics. But much has changed since Auburn won all the Tostitos at the end of the 2010 season.
The Tigers digressed to eight wins in 2011 before bottoming out at three wins in 2012 and firing head coach Gene Chizik. Auburn then hired Gus Malzahn, the offensive coordinator of that 2010 championship team. Because leaving for Arkansas State just in time to avoid the 2012 debacle means Chizik's former right-hand man is in no way responsible for the state of the program and deserves the head job.
After two expected wins to open the season, it's still way too early to tell if Malzahn is the right man for the job. He's certainly not the first offensive coordinator to go from coaching a transcendent talent to head coach of an SEC football team. The Tigers handled Arkansas State fairly easily on Saturday, which has the Auburn fan base cautiously optimistic going into the showdown against MSU. Auburn currently owns a 10-game conference losing streak, and that seems like the type of thing teams would like to break, especially against opponents they are favored by a touchdown against.
LET'S HOPE SPIRIT THE EAGLE IS IN GAME SHAPE
The last time MSU played at Auburn, there was an unfortunate incident with Spirit, Auburn's war eagle that buzzes the stadium before every kickoff. It's one of the cooler traditions in sports, which is why it was so disappointing to see Spirit completely off his game before that 2011 kickoff, flying into the glass of a Jordan-Hare Stadium luxury suite. Was it a substance or alcohol abuse problem that had Spirit flying into windows before an 11 a.m. kickoff? The world may never know, but here's to a healthy eagle that is in good spirits, without the help of liquid spirits.
Notable Auburn facts
- Current Apple CEO Tim Cook got his undergrad from Auburn, which helps explain why both Auburn and Apple's relevance peaked in 2010. Though there is hope that the two new iPhones announced this week may be what it takes to end Alabama's reign atop the BCS. When reached for comment on allegations of SEC football-related conspiracies surrounding the new iPhones, Siri responded, "War damn eagle."
- Reigning Miss America Mallory Hagan, from nearby Opelika, Alabama, was once an Auburn student before moving to New York. Hagan technically won the famous pageant while representing the state of New York, but in SEC country it still counts as another championship for the state of Alabama.
- Charles Barkley played basketball at Auburn. His insight is usually profound. Take this quote on DMX, for example: "I know why his name is DMX. Because his real name is Earl. Imagine if his name was Earl the rapper."
- The poisoning of Toomer's Oaks was an inside job.1
- Jimmy Wales, a co-founder of Wikipedia, graduated from Auburn. This means all Auburn undergraduates have permission to cite Wikipedia in term papers, according to Wikipedia.
Game Preview - Auburn
by JLgrindin Follow @JLgrindin
Last week, I spent the whole preview telling you guys about MSU and how the game was all about the Bulldogs. It was, and like I mentioned last week, if talk after that game was about Alcorn State, then that was bad news. So, naturally, the good news is that there has been zero mention of the Braves since Saturday before the game, and even then it was sparse. MSU got the win in addition to the mention, which was great news for those in maroon and white.
However, not all news is good news this week leading up to MSU’s SEC opener against Auburn. There is still a question amongst the MSU contingent about who should be the quarterback for MSU on Saturday. While Tyler Russell will get the start, he is coming off of a concussion against Oklahoma State in week 1, and if the offense stalls out with him, Dan Mullen could turn to the better fit for the MSU offense: Dak Prescott.
The good news for MSU is that no matter which QB plays the majority of the snaps on Saturday, the Auburn defense is really bad. They have shown an ability to create turnovers, as they have four in the first two games (three picks, one fumble recovery), but that's about the only positive you could attribute to them. While the Tiger D only gave up nine points to Arkansas State last week, they did give up 24 to Washington State, who only scored 10 on a very thin USC Trojan defense in week two. So, the MSU offense should continue to further improve and distance itself from the poor offensive performance in week one. The receivers are getting better for State each week, and the backfield found a new weapon against Alcorn State last weekend in freshman running back Ashton Shumpert.
On the other side of the ball, the Tigers have shown themselves to be very capable running the football so far this season. They are averaging just under 300 yards per game and have a very athletic quarterback in Nick Marshall, who likes to run first. Their running back, Tre Mason, is one of the conference’s best, so MSU will need a big performance from their front seven to keep the talented Mason in check. That doesn’t seem all too unlikely, as the linebacking unit appears to be very good this season for State, and the defensive line continues to improve.
The MSU secondary should be able to come down in the box and help with the run as well, as the Tigers are not much of a threat through the air. While Marshall possesses a huge arm, the Tigers lack a deep threat at wide receiver, and Marshall has proven to be an inconsistent passer early on, completing just over 50% of his passes against inferior defenses.
While the offenses can both be very explosive, neither has shown much this season (MSU did it against an Alcorn defense that was not very good at all). I think this game will be a shootout of sorts, maybe a 30-something to 20-something type of shootout, with neither defense really stopping the other’s offense. I do think both defenses will use turnovers to halt drives, but I do expect lots of up and down for both offenses. While Auburn has just two turnovers on the season, they have coughed up the football five times. If they continue to do so on Saturday, I expect the MSU defense to make the best of the opportunity, and make Auburn pay more than they have so far for their miscues.
On the flip side, MSU has thrown three interceptions this season, and up against an Auburn defense that will be looking for the turnover, especially through the air, I expect the Bulldogs to turn it over at some point on Saturday. While I think the Bulldogs are the superior team, they will be playing in a tough environment on Saturday. I really feel this game comes down to who can protect the football best. I think both teams will turn it over some, but the winner will almost assuredly have fewer turnovers at the end of the day.
Mississippi State Injury Report
Ferlando Bohanna (Head)
Tyler Russell (Head), LaDarius Perkins, Nickoe Whitley, Jamerson Love (Ankle)
Out for Season
Jay Hughes (Achilles), Justin Malone (Foot)
Road Dawgs - Auburn
by Metal Building Dawg Follow @croomdiaries
Are you making the trip to Auburn this weekend for the game? Well, have no fear, I've got you covered with all the info you need while on the plains. As you might have surmised from my post yesterday, I've been to Auburn A LOT. But unfortunately I won't be making the game this year - the first time since 1995; so I'll need to live vicariously though the FWtCT reader by providing these tips.
MSU Alumni tailgate: Woodruff Drive between South Donahue South College Street. It starts at 2:30. Here's a map of the Auburn campus.
You may want to get your picture taken in front of Samford Hall.
Toomer's Corner is gone, but you can still go visit Toomer's Drug Store.
Be prepared to walk a lot. Auburn has really made their campus into a series of quads that doesn't allow you to park very close. But by doing that things are more spread out than they used to be. You may want to head to the stadium a little early and cool off in their new Union building before heading in. I know they've got some TVs in there to watch the Bama/A&M game.
I've got two brothers who attended school at Auburn. One of them is currently enrolled and the other lives in town currently. So I went straight to the horse's mouth to get their selections on the best places to eat and their favorite dish. Here are their top 5:
- Amsterdam Cafe - Crab cake sandwich (I've had it, it's really good - they make a special sauce)
- Mamma Goldberg's Deli - Mamma's Love sandwich and Mamma's Famous Nachos (there are a bunch of these in Auburn)
- Mike and Ed's BBQ - Pulled pork sandwich
- Hamilton's - "everything is good but it's expensive", which might explain why my brother who is still in college has never been there, but says he's heard good things
- Niffer's - Corn nugget appetizer is a must; they have a wide variety of hamburgers (there are two of them in Auburn)
- BONUS (from Chris at College & Magnolia): The Hound - really good American fare and drink selection; and if you're in town for breakfast on Sunday go there for the "Redneck Benedict".
- Guthrie's - all they have are chicken fingers - you can't go wrong
- Cheeburger Cheeburger - a lot like Five Guys.
Typically Auburn fans, while extremely obnoxious about their team, are courteous to State fans. So hopefully you won't be tempted to CLANG all up in someone's grill because of their trash talk. Go to have a good time and mingle with the Auburn folk, just don't bring up Cam Newton.
Q&A with SBNation Auburn Blog College and Magnolia
with Chris Fuhrmeister Follow @collegeandmag
1. Is there an area of the Auburn team that is stronger than you expected going into the year? Or weaker?
I think the secondary looks better than most fans expected. It was so bad for four years under Gene Chizik, I thought it would take quite a while before it resembled anything close to competent. However, that unit has shown real signs of improvement. The DBs have given up some yards, but in their defense, they've played two high-octane offenses in Washington State and Arkansas State. Their fundamentals look much better and they're doing a much better job in coverage. In fact, Auburn came away with three interceptions against Washington State after having two picks during the entire 2012 season.
I don't believe there's any aspect of this team that's weaker than I was expecting. The linebackers and wide receivers still have plenty of room for improvement, and the defense as a whole has trouble getting off the field on third downs. But really, I was ready for issues in those areas, so they aren't much of a surprise.
2. What have your impressions of Nick Marshall been?
Marshall is a playmaker. He's got a cannon for an arm and the wheels to run the read-option offense. Perhaps his most impressive qualities, though, are his poise and good decision-making. He has plenty of confidence in the pocket, and he hasn't really made a poor choice when throwing or running the option. After what we saw last year at quarterback, that's a relief.
There were two primary concerns regarding Marshall before the season started: accuracy and ball protection. He completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes at Garden City CC last year, and his 20 interceptions were second-most in JUCO. So far, interceptions don't appear to be an issue. He hasn't once forced a throw into coverage, and avoiding turnovers really appears to be his first priority. But, his accuracy is an issue. Marshall has completed 20-of-36 passes, and many of his misses aren't even close -- he really needs to learn how to put touch on the ball. In the first two games, the accuracy problems haven't hurt Auburn, but in SEC play, they could do damage.
3. How do you feel this year's Auburn team is compared to last year?
Infinitely better. Last year's team featured a ton of deficiencies, no decent quarterback play whatsoever and a lack of passion from the players and coaches. On the other hand, the 2013 version of Auburn has revealed playmakers at most positions, a quarterback that needs work but can probably help to achieve an unexpected win or two and fire from the coaching staff that is being passed on to the players.
No matter the results at the end of the year, I'm going to love every Auburn team. But I didn't really like last season's Auburn team. That's definitely not the case this time around. There are a lot of good players and good play to enjoy.
4. Ellis Johnson usually brings some pretty salty defenses to the table. How have things gone so far this year?
For the first time in years, we're seeing signs of life on the defensive side of the ball. The defenders are playing with much more intensity than we saw in the final two seasons of the Chizik era, and more importantly, the look well-coached and seem to have a grasp of the fundamentals. Auburn has given up a bunch of yards, but against Arkansas State, the Tigers never allowed the Red Wolves in the end zone, and they compiled 13 tackles for loss and 22 quarterback hurries. In the Washington State game, the secondary Auburn intercepted three passes, one more than during the entire 2012 season.
So yeah, we'll have to wait and see how the defense performs in SEC play to really know how far it's come. So far, though, it appears to be greatly improved.
5. What is the confidence level of the Auburn fanbase about this game?
I think most Auburn fans feel like the Tigers are going to win this one. The team looked better in Week 2 compared to Week 1, and the opening victory over Washington State is a little more impressive now that the Cougs have beaten USC on the road. Personally, I think this game is a true toss-up, I don't think any outcome would surprise me. But if you asked 10 Auburn fans to give a win-or-loss prediction, seven or eight would probably pick a victory.
MSU has struggled with mobile quarterbacks in the past. Can State's rejuvenated D contain the Auburn signal caller Nick Marshall? -- John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Let's Gets Statistical
by cristilmethod Follow @cristilmethod
- 1This may or may not be true
- Tyler Russell photo included in the injury report courtesy of Bob Levey -- Getty Images
- Editing, style and layout by thecristilmethod